Our daughter in Chicago, Kirsten, wrote a few days ago that she’s “pretty obsessed with Occupy lately.  I am going to visit their gathering tonight with Anna, talk to whoever is around to talk to  … I do like to talk to people about the world, how the world should be and so on.  I think if anything, I would love to have this be my ministry environment: sharing God’s message of love and hope with those who see the sin and greed of the world around them and are not content with how things are.  I don’t know how to put this message into words though, so for the mean time I’ll just watch and talk and listen.”

Saturday she wrote again after visiting Occupy in Chicago.

Second Friday in a row I went downtown Chicago to see what the Occupy Chicago was up to.  I wasn’t sure what to expect my first visit, I think I was looking forward to idealists to speak with.  What I found was a group of people trying to pursue something they believe in, and not sure how to do that.  This week again the ‘General Assembly’, as they call their meeting, discussed housekeeping.  In many ways it reminded me of showing up at a new church.  The life started some time ago, I’m just a visitor.

During the summer I was interested, watching from afar, London erupt in riots.  I wrote then “presenting symptom:   riots in the street.  Four days, presumed sickness:   “a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy” (Nina Power writing in the Guardian this summer).  “As long as your unethical behavior is legal and non-violent, we will ignore it … These kids are questing after the wealth of their neighbors, flat out that is coveting- makes the top ten on the list of commandments … But what about those who have been questing after wealth in legal manner?  the top 10% of the population who hold 100 times the wealth of the bottom 10%?  all this time they’ve been taking advantage of everyone around them to acquire this great wealth, but because they have done it this or that way…”

From London, in a Notting Hill restaurant:  “Food blogger, Louise Yang, tweeted that it was her ‘most expensive meal ever’, as looters tore her engagement and wedding rings from her finger, and described as chefs came to their rescue with kitchen utensils before ushering all the guests into the cellar.” (from The Daily Mail, August)  The restaurant frequented by stars… expensive food, expensive jewelry adorning the customers as they sit helpless- she had been trying to take her rings off to hide them, she had no presence of mind to speak with the people?  to talk them down?  I guess there was chaos, what would you do in a situation like that.  But the patrons of the restaurant, perhaps panicked, saved by their wait-staff who supplied them with petit fours and champagne.  Because this is a small storm that will end soon, will be over and when it is over, the patrons of this restaurant will still possess their wealth, will still be well off, while the ‘rioters’ will still have nothing, probably less than nothing when they get locked up etc in retaliation from the government which is protecting the status quo.”

Now I see the same root causes being spoken out against by a similar group.  Young, and able to see the hopelessness of the status quo.

So then, how do we minister to Occupy?  How do we hear their voices and love them?

I love them because I see in them myself, my own voice and demands. 

But I also see something is missing.  The heart of the matter is the heart of all those involved.  We can make demands and make laws, but when the heart of mankind is filled with greed and ruthlessness, the laws will not protect us.  Instead, as we have seen, the laws will benefit those already in power, those who already have much.

What about helping the poor?  Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Mt 26:11, NIV).  Jesus was referencing Deuteronomy here, when the Lord tells the Israelites, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers toward the poor and needy in your land” (Dt 15:11).  Is this not what Occupy is demanding?  At least in part. 

One final thought.  One of the committees of the General Assembly is for the clergy- I’ve spoken with a friend in Baltimore who mentioned that for that Occupy, it is a very secular movement.  My friend was surprised to hear about the clergy participating in Chicago’s Occupy.  Let’s not sit on the sidelines and wait for the Occupiers to come to power or to naught.  Let’s get in and be Christ’s disciples.  Let’s figure out how to be the clergy, how to minister, and how to love in a context.  if we are truly non-partisan, a-political, then let’s minister to all sides of our people, not just those in power.  Let’s not allow their wishes to interfere with the message of the Gospel.

I’m not eloquent, I’m not a protester.  But I know what they are saying, and I love the passion for justice.  I want to speak but I don’t have the words.  But it’s okay not to have the words.  God gives to those who trust him, and he will give the words to me at the proper time.

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